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Cheryl Hughes: Worth

I read once that you teach people how to treat you. No one knows this better than my cat, Brother. Brother’s nose seems to be perpetually cold, and he has decided that the only way to warm it is to bury it in the crook of my arm, while sitting on my lap. He purrs loudly as he does this in order to bring to my attention the fact that he is happy with this arrangement. If I notice he is happy, I won’t move from my spot, where he is sitting happily in his spot, and he can continue sitting on me until his nose is warm or he grows weary of sitting on my bony legs. At which time, he chooses a more comfy place to finish his nap.

“Cats were once worshiped as gods.  They have not forgotten this.”  I forgot who wrote that, but it is profoundly true.  Cats expect to be catered to, so as a general rule, they are.  Unlike the dog—and I do love dogs—a cat’s love is not unconditional.  It is doled out in small doses, at a time of their choosing, no matter how inconvenient that time is for you.  A cat can make you sit down when you didn’t plan on sitting down, and once seated, a cat will cause you to stay seated longer than you had planned.  I’ve often thought that God uses Brother Cat to help me to sit when I’m in the midst of activity going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.  There is something about rubbing a cat that quiets and centers me.

Those who are dog people only might not understand the attraction of cats.  They might argue, wouldn’t it be easier to have an animal that is all love, all the time?  Why not just have a docile little being who does as it is told.  Wouldn’t that make more sense?  The answer is a resounding yes, but easy is not the end game for a cat.  Cats live on the fringes.  They stalk cows—who knows what they think they’re going to do with one if they catch it.  They climb trees and jump onto roofs, without first figuring   what their escape route will be.  They chase one another and hide from one another and torment dogs that are nicer than they are.  Cats are all about challenge.

My conversations with my cats are lengthy.  These conversations do not involve simple commands like “sit” or “roll over.”  A conversation with Brother Cat usually starts with a question.  “Brother, do you have to do that?” I ask when I see him dunking a scrunchie, he has stolen from the bathroom sink, in his water bowl.  “You’re making a mess!” I say.  He continues until I take the scrunchie away from him.  He is unaffected by the confiscation of his “toy.”  He turns his back and walks into the dining room, where he jumps up onto a small stool that I have placed in front of the window for his and Sister Cat’s viewing pleasure.  They watch the small birds in the shrubs outside.  Garey and I call the location Cat TV.

Brother Cat exists on the premise of “what’s yours is mine.”  He walks around on Garey’s truck and my car.  He climbs to the top of Garey’s backhoe to survey his kingdom, which includes birds on the power lines and squirrels in the walnut trees.  He takes over my writing chair and jumps onto my puzzle and walks on the computer keys while I’m trying to type.  He sticks his face into my water glass and my coffee mug, and oftentimes, I have to rub him with one hand while eating my Pop Tart with the other.

Brother knows his worth.  He was born with this knowledge.  

This sort of knowledge—knowing your worth—is knowledge I have had to acquire from relationships with others who didn’t know my worth.  It is knowledge I have also acquired from my relationship with Brother.

Dogs teach by loving.

Cats teach by being.

Both teach worth.



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